Scientists About to Reach Ice Bound Lake Vostok For First Time in 15 Million Years

In a race to beat the fast approaching end of the short Antarctic summer, Russian scientists are painstakingly digging to breach into the icebound Lake Vostok for the first time in 15 million years.

Alexei Turkeyev is the head of the Russian polar mission to Vostok Station in Antarctica. He explained to reporters via a satellite hook-up that they are only about  5 meters from reaching the lake, which is located about 12,000 feet under the polar ice cap.

Hopes are high that scientists will discover new forms of life under the ice and be able to learn something about how life first evolved during the times before the last ice age. The researchers are also hoping that what they find in the extreme conditions in the Lake can help us understand more about life on other planets where conditions are equally extreme.

The last flight out of Antarctic is on February 6, just ahead of the onset of the severe polar winter. “It's minus 40 (Celsius/Fahrenheit) outside,” said Turkeyev. “But whatever, we're working. We're feeling good. There's only 5 meters left until we get to the lake so it'll all be very soon.”